Genesis 2:8-15 “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”
Early in my ministry at Good News, I had the opportunity of officiating a wedding at the Botanical Gardens of the University of North Carolina in Asheville. It truly was a beautiful setting for a wedding. Some of the most beautiful scenes in the world are those that can be found in gardens that have been meticulously planned, planted and maintained. The Biltmore Gardens in Asheville are an example of this and are considered some of the most beautiful in the country, and illustrate what man can do when working with God’s creation. Can you imagine what God’s garden in Eden looked like? This was before any of the marring effects of sin were present in the world, and this garden was planted by the All-knowing, All-powerful Creator. It would be safe to say that the gardens of the world today pale in comparison to the Garden of Eden.
Where was the Garden of Eden where humanity can trace it’s beginnings? The record of man’s beginnings according to Scripture can be traced back to the Ancient Near East, which has been referred to as the Cradle of Civilization. The Holeman Bible Atlas makes the following observation worthy of note here: “James Breasted coined the phrase “Fertile Crescent” to describe a band of land where conditions favored the establishment of early agricultural settlements. Water, either from rainfall or irrigation, and a favorable climate encouraged the development of village life. Stretching northwest from the Persian Gulf (the “Lower Sea”), the crescent includes the lands bordering the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers known as Mesopotamia. In southern Turkey the crescent bends south along the eastern Mediterranean coast. Here lies a narrow strip of land caught between the sea and desert called the Levant. Ancient Syria formed the northern half of the Levant, while Palestine occupied the southern portion. The intrusion of the Syro-Arabian Desert from the south gives the crescent its characteristic shape, while mountain ranges (Taurus, Kurdistan, and Zagros Mountains) mark the limits to the north and east.” (Map was taken from Holeman’s Bible Atlas)
None can really know the location of the Garden of Eden. We do know the modern rivers today, the Euphrates and the Tigris (Or Hiddekel, referred to as “the great river” in Daniel 10:4) mentioned in Genesis. However, if these are the same rivers as the ancient rivers found in our text, none know the geographic changes that occurred after the flood of Noah’s day. Some have suggested that these modern rivers were named after the ancient rivers that flowed out of the main river that was found in Eden. Be that as it may, most agree that the area known as the Fertile Crescent to be that region of the world where civilization developed from its infancy, and most likely the general location of the Garden of Eden.
In the Garden, God provided everything that man would need for food, for enjoyment, for reflection and mediation upon his Creator and for a place where he could meet with God and commune with Him. (See 3:8) The responsibility of Adam was that of “dressing” and “keeping” the Garden. Even in it’s pre-flood perfection, the earth that was created by God needed man’s attention and perpetual care. Gardening was one of the original occupations of early man, bringing newly created man great pleasure and fulfillment.
It is worthy of note that God created trees that were “good for food,” but also created those that were “pleasant to the sight.” These would have no nutritional value to man, but were nonetheless important in the Creator’s overall plan, for His creation was not merely functional, but was also beautiful. The beauty of creation is pleasing, awe inspiring and reflective of all of God’s gracious provisions. Of course, man would learn later the importance of God’s miraculous plan for the maintenance of the atmosphere with the trees He created, that being the production of oxygen through photosynthesis. What a mighty God we serve!
Pastor Steve Smith